Elder Care

4 Online Scams and How to Avoid Them

July 25, 2017

The Internet has proved to be an incredible tool that can give seniors a great deal of freedom and entertainment along with access to necessary information. With email and video calling, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with loved ones. Online shopping is liberating for those with limited mobility. And with everything from word games to TV shows, there is plenty of content on the internet to keep occupied. Unfortunately, there are those who try to use this resource to exploit vulnerable seniors. Here are some tips to protect yourself from common online scams.

Phony Tech Support: A call from someone claiming to be from a major tech company can raise some alarms. These people will likely follow a script claiming they are from a reputable tech company and that there is a major issue with your computer, or even claim that someone is trying to get your information. These tech support scammers will likely try to get access to your computer and attempt to sell you fake security software, which could be used to steal information from your hard drive and Internet browsing history. If anyone calls claiming to be from one of these major companies, it is best to not engage and simply hang up. If you believe there is an issue with your computer, contact a reputable service technician or your device manufacturer.

IRS: It’s not surprising that hearing from the IRS can make people nervous. Nobody wants to hear that he or she has made a mistake somewhere in the complexities of tax law and will now face legal consequences. This combination of confusing minutiae and potential legal trouble make it a prime opportunity for people looking to exploit others. It is important to know that the IRS primarily communicates through federal mail. On the rare occasion they contact people through other means, they will only do so after mail notifications and they will not threaten arrest or ask for immediate payments.

Phishing: Phishing is when scammers try to get personal information by pretending to be a trusted online presence. For example, a scammer might send an email that pretends to be from your bank. Once you click the link it provides, it will direct you to a website that looks like your bank’s and ask you to sign in. Once you do so, this website will send that information to the scammer who will be able to access your bank account. Fortunately, many browsers will alert you if they believe the website is a fraud. However, if you suspect that a site may be a scam, type the real web address into your browser instead of following the link.

Helping a Relative: A frantic email from a relative may immediately throw you into a panic. The email might say he or she is in an emergency, like being stuck somewhere with no way to get home, and needs money right away. These scammers play on people’s compassion and concern for their family. It is fairly simple to determine if it is genuinely your relative. Ask questions only your family member would know, and try to contact your relative through other means, such as a phone call, to confirm the story. It can be difficult to overcome the urge to help someone in trouble but by remaining calm you can protect yourself from being scammed.


It is important to exercise caution while using the internet. Be sure to confirm the identity of who you are speaking with. Never give personal information or money to anyone unless you can be sure he is who he says he is. By being careful you can take advantage of everything the internet has to offer without anyone taking advantage of you. Happy browsing!

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